By Tyler Dell
I see you have made it the whole way to the New Testament…
Now that you are armed with the mathematical tools to identify what a future stud looks like on paper. How do you when math is being a back-stabbing bitch and pulls the rug out from under you and allows your dynasty stock to fall into the shadow like Gandalf battling the Balrog? The simple answer is you don’t. But there are in my opinion red flags that reveal themselves when you watch the tape. And by tape, I mean hours of any internet video you can get your hands on to watch the given player do every kind of movement you can possibly see.
As previously stated I have 0 years of evaluating WR prospects at a professional level. But I have had a lot of success (and some miserable failures) with investing in certain WR coming out of college and avoiding some others. Your own personal eye test that everyone who plays dynasty and cares enough about it to put the time in to go watch film to acquire details is as important if not more important than any metric you can have.
So what should a good eye test entail?
REMEMBER LIFE BEFORE THE COMBINE
So many prospects seemingly live and die on that one fateful week in spring. The combine is important. The primary purpose I see in it from the dynasty football perspective is a tool to help me settle an inner dispute I might have in my head between two or more prospects I’m between. It is not an opportunity to take someone you had no prior interest in and have that player skyrocket up your board. A great combine should be used to help affirm a previous belief you had in a player from when you saw them play football. However in contrast a bad combine should also not turn you completely off to a wide receiver if you loved what you saw on tape.
As an example. I love Jalen Reagor, I think he is going to have a very fruitful fantasy career. He kind of blew the combine. Had a disappointing 3 cone and 40 times. He did display his explosiveness with a 42 inch vertical. But outside of that, he didn’t have the timed speed people were hoping for that day. But guess what, if you watch Jalen Reagor play football he regularly reaches the end zone to cap off a big play with 10-15 yards between him and the closest defender, so he’s properly really fast. You get the point.
WATCH THEM VS. ALL THE PRESS COVERAGE YOU POSSIBLY CAN
These samples are sometimes hard to come by. There are a lot more zone coverage schemes in college than press coverage in general. You often hear “it’s a press coverage league” when reading or watching videos on draft coverage of receivers and it’s a true statement. It’s also true that in the current NFL there are many coordinators and coaches that make livings scheming guys open or putting players in the slot to free them up. However, if you can see evidence that a prospect can win regularly against a press-man that’s a huge plus. I’d imagine it’s much easier to teach a receiver how to find the holes in zone coverage than to teach the natural tools and creativity that players who can defeat press coverage displays.
If it’s available, senior bowl drills are a great insight into this skill, especially if the player didn’t see much press in college. It’s often a small sample, but it’s better than nothing. I was high on Terry Mclaurin going into the draft when others were still in the dark in large part to his senior bowl footage. Denzel Mims, Collin Johnson, and Chase Claypool are some current rookies that I think have some promising footage from senior bowl one on one drills that are out there now for people to judge themselves.
WAIST DOWN (;
Alright…Lets party. No, Get your mind out of the gutter. We are talking about technique here! When watching any kind of film or highlights, I think it’s important to have attention to detail, especially when it comes to their feet and hips. You have the stats already, you know what the are capable over the course of the season and in terms of per-play metrics. Now is the time to just look for the subtle things that will translate to the next level.
Foot speed is critical in almost every position in football, and that includes the receiver position. Not just foot speed, but more so foot control. Are they decisive when they step, and do they trip over themselves when cutting? Pay attention to their steps and how quickly they cover the distance. During combine and senior bowl drills, lock in on how many steps it takes them to stop at full speed. “Be quick but don’t hurry” is a saying I like to keep in mind when evaluating and preparing for a rookie draft.
I also tend to warn against the appearance of “wasted motion.” I think a good example of the wasted motion concept is Daesean Hamilton. When he was coming out I liked him as a later round rookie draft option, but one thing always bothered me about his game. He always LOOKED like he was a good route runner, seemed under control and fluid most of the time but when you watch drills it just seems like he was moving a lot and never really going anywhere. Like he was exerting all his skill and knowledge to get all but 7 yards downfield. You want every move the receiver makes to matter, to constantly be working towards either setting up a move or exploding upfield to exploit an opening.
Another question I often ask is does it seem like that player is always in the right spot when he’s supposed to be there. When you watch live game action, does it look like the player is confident in the play and route he is running, or does it look like he is just relying on pure athleticism every play? If you notice the player’s style isn’t exactly centered around separation, then you want to hone in on body control and catch concentration instead. Maybe also focus on how they stack or box out the defender when the ball is coming their way. You want to see almost a basketball-type skillset from these players. No one can afford drops, but a player who does not win by getting “open” in the traditional sense especially cannot survive drops.
JACK OF ALL TRADES, MASTER OF ONE
The last bullet point I want to cover in regards to eye test is being able to identify what the receiver’s number one strength is, and whether or not they do it well enough to impact an NFL team day one. If a team is going to spend good draft capital on a receiver, it’s likely done under the assumption that they already have some role envisioned for them on their offense early on. This doesn’t mean a player can’t develop a more diverse skillset after being subjected to NFL coaching for a few years, it just means that if they are going to burn a first or second-round pick on a player, he better be able to come in and do SOMETHING right off the bat. Coaches don’t exactly have the longest shelf life. Long story short, stay away from “projects.”
Just for some examples, DJ Moore came into the NFL with an elite YAC based game. He has all the physical tools and the work ethic to seemingly build off that, but this is the skill that got him on the field down the stretch of his rookie year. Calvin Ridley came into the league not exactly as an all-world athlete, but he already had an NFL route tree giving him an easy window into early production. Juju Is another prospect that had an elite YAC style coupled with solid body control and hands at the catch point.
All of these players had things to improve on as do all rookies, but they brought immediate value to their NFL teams in their rookie years, which equals an immediate dynasty pay off for drafting them in a rookie draft. If you find yourself watching a player’s film and noticing they are extremely reliant only schemed touches that you don’t feel will translate to the pros then you should let someone else take the risk. It’s very important for me when I draft a WR that they display some kind of skill that they are beating the defense with continuously, which isn’t directly related to a scheme or play call.
Class dismissed. I can’t give away too many secrets or you won’t follow up with me and the Ride or Dynasty gang. If you’ve made it this far, thank you for your time. If you haven’t, you probably are a running back guy. It’s okay, I’ll be here when you are ready to come home to daddy. On rookie draft day, the decisions are yours to make, I can only hope any of my insight into this particular position can shed some light on how to identify future success for dynasty owners.
Tyler Dell – Dynasty/Devy
Ride or Dynasty